Caroline Kennedy's Collection of Poems on Womanhood


Women have always been at the center of poetry -- throughout history we have been its inspiration, and more recently, women are the authors of the most profound poetry of our time. One of the oldest known poets in the world is a woman -- Sappho -- and her fragments of verse are as emotionally piercing today as the work of many modern writers. The love poetry of medieval troubadours, Renaissance playwrights, and Romantic poets (almost exclusively men) celebrated female beauty and mystery; conquest, heartbreak, and desire. In the twentieth century, women poets gave voice to the pain and joy, relationships and loneliness, the work and the life of women. In today's world, as women struggle to balance work and family, to be good mothers and friends, to care for our children and our parents, poetry can help us accept our limitations, and inspire us to overcome them. In a world where language is too often used to manipulate, poems can help us find our authentic voice.

The book is divided into sections that seem broad enough to encompass the milestones in a woman's life -- "Falling in Love," "Breaking Up," "Marriage," "Motherhood," "Death and Grief"—but they are intended as helpful, if arbitrary, dividers. Other sections are about some of the things that make us happy, like "Friendship" or "Beauty." My favorite section is the one titled "How to Live." It includes the poems that started this book, and many others, each containing wisdom that has helped me on my own journey.

Collecting these poems reminded me that when I was younger, I thought my task was to forge ahead and succeed as an individual. But growing older has helped me realize that our success lies in our relationships -- with the family we are born into, the friends we make, the people we fall in love with, and the children we have. Sometimes we struggle, sometimes we adapt, and at other times we set a course for others to follow. We are all leaders and followers in our lives. We are constantly learning from and teaching one another. We learn, too, that the most important work is not done by those who seem the most important, but by those who care the most.

Women have always been the weavers of the world, literally and figuratively. We weave people together, we weave the experiences of life into patterns, and we weave our stories into words. Poetry has been one of the ways we do this. Poems distill our deepest emotions into a very few words -- words that we can remember, carry with us, and share with others as we talk and weave the cloth of life.

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